This has been around for a long long time...various women leaders have discussed this, women writers have written about it...The statistics remain very discouraging. Despite having almost two or three generations of women who have been working full time, women in decision making positions and leadership positions remain abysmally low. Take a look at this stats I found on the AAUW website:
(AAUW is stands for American Association for University Women and most of their work and stats therefore is US-oriented. Nonetheless, the stats seen above is of a global nature and something we can all relate to.)
There is a variety of reasons. History for one. Right? The stereotype of the 'old boys club' still holds true. Leadership traits are still not somehow associated with leadership. (See the video at the end of this post.) Women traditionally have fewer connections and networks, get fewer introductions and therefore fewer mentors, sponsors and investors to support / back them. Many countries still need a male co-signatory to procure loans. Something QV Woman member @jonzerem often laments about in her own work with women entrepreneurs.
Then there is the blatant bias and discrimination. Even me who do not think they are sexist, indeed harbour subconscious bias, as unfortunately do women!! We are also conditioned into thinking leader = man! Issues petaining to men get traction way faster than women. As someone told me wryly, if there was no G in LGBTQ, there is no way same-sex marriages would have been legalized!
All genders benefit when women are in leadership and decision making positions. As @arakalic mentions in her post, women mostly care for the hardest cadre of people to please- children! And I will add here, they are caregivers to the older generation too. Somehow, women seem to be 'around' more. So women are more wired to care for other people! Whether it is instinctive or we are conditioned that way over generations I do not know, but even the most impatient of us women are more 'around' to deal with issues than our male counterparts.
So, factually speaking, makes most sense to have more women in leadership positions, right? But why do we not?
My own opinion, in addition to the obvious stereotypes and blatant discrimination, women hesitate too much. I see it all the time, in seminars I facilitate, women in client groups, or even casual professional conversations. There is something that seems to stop women from speaking their mind, saying things as-is or just what they think of a certain thing. There is enough research to say that women are more aware and conscious of their surrounding environment, they have smaller personal space bubbles and are very conscious of societal retribution every step of the way, in every society globally. However, has it gotten to a point where these notions have taken over so much that we are now using that as as armour to shield us from progress too?
Sometimes, most times, you don't get a do over, you don't get second chances. You get that one chance to make your mark and hesitating then, weighing all the pros and cons and over analyzing the repercussions might actually work against you! This is not to say speed always matters. It is however very very important to have your voice heard. Even if to say, you are present, you heard the issue and you will work on it! And saying it without sounding apologetic.
This will not shoot you straight to the top tomorrow. But speaking up, it builds a presence. It creates a 'space' for you. People (including female colleagues, clients and stakeholders) will learn to hear your voice, ask for your opinion. We have beat centuries of being kept at bay, being kept away from the workforce and being conditioned to be 'nice', not speak up and getting things done 'quietly'. The last bit works, to an extent but not in making the big leaps. This does not mean be foolish and shoot your mouth off just for the sake of it. It means taking calculated risks and not hesitating to say things you know or know you can take on!
I know there are many women leaders, entrepreneurs and career women on this platform. I invite ALL of them to voice their opinion, or share an experience related to this. I leave you with this video clip. It has been around in many versions, as a joke, as a management exercise in gender equity....but this video shows us how subconscious gender bias still exists and exists so strongly!
hello, the YouTube video says it is no longer available...but I do very much appreciate the content and 100% agree with everything you are saying. It had to be said...
I can speak for myself, even without the context, if I were asked this question, my first answer would have been "obviously, its his mom calling". But that could stem from my experiences. At one time, in a large healthcare IT company I was at, 3 management positions in my reporting line up to the CEO were all held by women!
There is however no dispute that there are fewer women in corporate leadership. The reasons may not all stem from the work environment. Many times, as caregivers to the family, women have to make the tough trade offs to maintain a work life balance.
I have reported to many women managers, very competent leaders, strong on delivery and accommodating of their team members situations, empathetic and encouraging. But there still exists another type of women leaders, who having weathered the harder road to the top, are less obliging to work life balance arrangements, creating a environment that is counter productive for the women on their teams to grow into leadership roles.